6 Spicy Questions for the S.League: Can Hougang spoil Tampines’ 100% record?

 The S.League season continues this week with Round 6 kicking off tonight. Once again, FFT Singapore’s Kenneth Tan tries to pick out the key pointers from each fixture.. 

Will the real Moon please stand up?

Warriors FC vs Woodlands Wellington, Thursday 3 April

It has been a solid start to the season for Woodlands, having not tasted defeat in all five matches so far. But if there is a man in the Rams camp who is feeling less than bubbly than the rest, it could very well be Moon Soon-Ho.

The South Korean attacker had a spectacular 2013, where he struck 15 goals to help the side to fifth in the league as well as a share of the Golden Boot award with the evergreen Aleksandar Duric. However, there has been little for him to savour in this campaign.

Yes, he did find the net in the season-opener against Hougang United but that failed to mask an otherwise drab performance. Two fruitless encounters soon ensued, and he has subsequently been sidelined with coach Darren Stewart opting for the physicality of Patrick Paran upfront.

It remains to be seen if Stewart keeps the faith in Paran or brings Moon back into his starting eleven, but one thing is for sure – last season's top scorer will need to find his mojo as soon as possible.

Can Geylang’s Argentinian trio aid their road to recovery?

Harimau Muda vs Geylang International, Thursday 3 April

Things are starting to look optimistic once again for Geylang after a calamitous start to their campaign. Two gritty results against Courts Young Lions and Brunei DPMM has allowed the Eagles to collect four valuable points.

At the heart of this recovery has been the solid performances put in by goalkeeper Joey Sim, as well as the Japanese defensive duo of Kento Fukuda and Yuki Ichikawa. Unfortunately, the displays from the three new Argentinian signings have not been as convincing.

Rookie defender Joaquin Lopez had to be bailed out on a couple of occasions by his more experienced teammates, while former Argentina Under-20 midfielder Franco Chivilo has struggled to provide the ammunition for Leonel Felice upfront.

Coming up next against a gritty Young Tigers side who gave Tampines a big scare last week, coach Jorg Steinebrunner will hope this trio can finally show what they are truly capable of.

Can Zerka continue to score?   

Albirex Niigata vs Tanjong Pagar United, Friday 4 April

Someone famous once said that ‘scoring goals is like getting ketchup out of a bottle”. While the quote has been attributed to a whole selection of football legends, it still rings true these days. Sometimes nothing comes out of the sauce bottle, while other times a whole dollop comes out all at once.

Such has been Tanjong Pagar striker Monsef Zerka’s lot this season so far. Failing to find the net in the first four matches (albeit being suspended for the opening match against Harimau Muda), three came in the space of just 15 minutes last week against the Young Lions.

The clinical manner in which he dispatched his goals proved a welcome delight for worried Jaguars fans might well have signalled their marquee man's timely return to form.

Masrezwan Masturi will return from suspension to give coach Patrick Vallee a selection headache, but the logical reasoning will be to keep Zerka in his favoured role upfront.

If the Moroccan can turn on the style again, then it could possibly spell big trouble for an inconsistent Albirex side.

Can title-chasing Protectors improve on their stop-start season?

Home United vs Balestier Khalsa, Saturday 5 April

It has been a frustrating season for Home players and fans alike as they seemed incapable of stringing a series of good results together so far.

A 4-1 win over Geylang seemed to put them on the right track after the opening-day defeat to Tampines Rovers, but it was soon followed up with a three-goal defeat to Brunei DPMM. A 3-0 away victory over the Young Tigers proved to be yet another false dawn as they had to fight hard to gain a point against Hougang last week.  For a side that is gunning for the championship, that is simply not good enough.

Thus it will be intriguing to see which Home United turns up on Saturday night. Despite missing the services of suspended playmaker Lee Kwan-Woo, Home coach Lee Lim Saeng has the likes of Fazrul Nawaz, Bruno Castanheira, Qiu Li and Indra Sahdan at his disposal.

Anything less than a win will prove to be yet another disappointment in the Protectors' stop-start season.

Can the Cheetahs stop Mrdakovic and the Stags?

Hougang United vs Tampines Rovers, Saturday 5 April

Along with Warriors FC, Hougang has been one of the surprise packages early in season 2014. Tipped to struggle after losing the services of a number of key players, they have simply put their heads down and gone about their business proving the critics wrong.

Having taken eight points off four of the top six sides last season, the Cheetahs have shown they are capable of competing with the very best. This week’s home assignment against defending champions Tampines will be another good chance for them to strengthen that case, although it will be a far from easy task.

The Stags are settling into this season nicely with a 100% record of five wins out of five. Coupled with that, they have come from behind to win their last four matches (including in AFC Cup competition) with marquee man Miljan Mrdakovic already reaching double figures (10) in all competitions.

If Amin Nasir can rally his troops together, Hougang might just stand a slight chance of toppling the Eastern giants.

Has the DPMM bubble burst?

Brunei DPMM vs Courts Young Lions, Sunday 6 April

It was the perfect start for former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean in his Southeast Asian adventure as his Brunei DPMM side collected three wins without conceding a goal to sit top of the S.League table at the end of Round 3.

However the fairytale was not to last long as they were soon brought back down to earth by defending champions Tampines in their next game. Another draw with Geylang later, they now suddenly find themselves five points off the pace.

Kean will now hope that to put an end to that winless streak when his side host the Young Lions in Bandar Seri Begawan. It will not be easy against the national development side whose displays so far belie their current league position.

Perhaps unlucky to lose by the odd goal on three occasions, Aide Iskandar’s boys will seek to find joy at a venue where they earned their first point in 13 games last season. On the flip side, defeating these young and energetic individuals may well just be the tonic to reinvigorate DPMM’s title charge. 

Main Photo Credit: Chris Harvey